April 15, 2014


I've heard of twins or multiples devising their own language.  My kids all arrived individually, but I swear they have taken a few words and tweaked them.  When they are upset with a sibling or a situation, you can hear them add a syllable to the end of the negative word they are using.  The most common usage is when they sneer at a sibling to stop doing something.  It comes out like this:  'Stop-uhh'.  I asked Reggie how to spell 'stop-uhh' last year after listening to him utter this word (?) repeatedly while we were driving in the car.  He spelled it s-t-o-p-a.  Wise ass.

You would think the offending sibling would realize that this kid's buttons have been sufficiently pushed.  Time to back off.  This is rarely the outcome.  Instead I have the pleasure of hearing the added, offensive syllable until I want to say a 4 letter word myself with or without an elongated syllable at the end.  I'm confident that even without any added syllables they would still recognize my word choice as serious business. 

It did happen once.  Tetonka was struggling with sleep issues about a year ago.  This of course means that I was also struggling with sleep issues of my own.  And frustration issues.  And extremely high therapist bills.  I don't remember what the irrational thought was that he shared while I was serving dinner one night, but I believe he was insisting that he did not have a bed time.  He would decide to go to bed when he was ready.  (How's about now? I thought).  Coach wasn't home, so I was working off of a zone defense.  I tried to provide him with useful information, like:  'No, Daddy and I decide when you go to bed, and you will not stay up late tonight.'  The fit that ensued was unparalleled.  I was rushing to pick Mini up at a dancing practice and then race straight to a softball game, but the dinner had to be served first.  There was no room for nonsense.  Power struggle.  Screaming.  Then it happened.  Even if his behavior should have been ignored, I needed him to know that I wasn't coming home from a softball game to dance around this issue again.  Well, to be honest,  not sure I was in full control of what I wanted him to know.  It was over.  I went with something along the lines of:  "I am in f------ charge and I don't care what the f--- you say.  Just shut the f--- up!"  There may have been more bleeping.  It's all a blur.

He didn't stop right away.  I stomped my foot so hard while I was swearing like a sailor that it required ice packs for hours.  During the episode, Laddie and Eddie were sitting at the table across from Tetonk.  They had a facial, brother-speak thing happen that shut him down.  The kicks that they were delivering at his kneecaps under the table must have made an additional impact.  I think their faces complete with twitching eyebrows translated into something like:  'Brother, she's never used that word in front of us, let alone at us.  We are older than you.  We behave worse than you - usually.  But you have made her lose her marbles.  Shut it down.  It's over.  You lost.  Know when to stop-uhh.' 

April 13, 2014

Old school

Coach and I are old school parents.  Our kids have all been spanked . . . on more than one occasion.  We are in charge and we aren't afraid to remind them of this fact.  There are chores in our house, and our offspring does them (OK, typically not as well as we would like but everyone can wear a mismatched pair of socks sometimes, right?  And whose to say that the kitchen floor under the cabinets didn't get a whole new pile of crumbs a few minutes after being swept anyway?).  Meals are not optional, and there is no sneering at food on your plate.  'You don't always get what you want' isn't just a line from a song, it's a reality in our home.  Parental homework involvement only happens when necessary and even then sometimes we don't realize how necessary it is.  'Plugging in' in our house usually means the mix master, the fan, or the hair dryer.  Old school doesn't make us perfect parents though . . . far from it.

Another similarity to childhood of yesteryear:  our kids aren't overly supervised - especially when they play outside.  May I point out that we live on a cul-de-sac.   In the suburbs of Chicago.  This is not inner city.  Also not a 'watch out for traffic' kind of setting.   Our crew is like a herd.  They travel in a pack.  You've heard of safety in numbers - well, that should be our motto.  When the kids were little, the doors that were part of the deck locked.  It was awesome.  Eventually Laddie and Eddie were big enough to climb to freedom or open the gate and forget to close it.  Nothing is fool proof.  But I used to be able to park a kid in a swing and run in and stir dinner.  Strap a kid in a stroller and change a load of laundry.  Or keep them busy with bubbles on the deck with the gates locked and stand within ear shot making dinner.

Now that they are older, I remind them to wear a helmet, stay near the house, don't swing golf clubs when other kids are around, etc. while they race out the door.  I can usually see or hear what they are getting into, while I am getting things done inside.  I suppose my landscaping could be beautiful if I devoted time to it while they were outside playing.  The inside of the house always seems a bit more emergent though.

A few of my neighbors don't subscribe to the same child rearing philosophy that Coach and I do.  I moved into the neighborhood when the youngest of their 2 or 3 kids was about 3.  They would take out their folding chair and park themselves on the driveway watching the kids.  Even though I had the locking-gate-deck and the older, somewhat-attentive brother, I stood outside and chatted with them from time to time while the kids played.  Curly would be in a stroller or walking around pushing a toy or a pulling a wagon.  Besides I felt guilty when my kids ran down to play on their driveway.  I didn't want it to seem like Neighbor One (No) and Neighbor Two (Nit) needed to watch my kids.  But I loved the locking gate, damn it.  I was accomplishing stuff and the kids were happy in our yard, but they always wanted to hang with other kids.  It was one of the only things I missed about our old house.  Everyone was elderly.  There were no kids.  The street was busier, no cul-de-sac, but my kids were always in our yard.  There was no where else to go.  

Anyway, I admit that I was outside more frequently too when one of my really little guys was out there threatening to eat grass etc.  Of course back then I had nap time to try to accomplish something.  Although I  remember napping myself or relaxing during nap time . . . oh, the good 'ole days.  But now that Curly is six I am only outside when I am trying to round them up, break them up, or get them to turn off the hose when it is only 58 degrees out.  I also enjoy sitting in the sun on the deck (deck doors broke off awhile ago, but no more need for locking kids up now anyway).  I have given up feeling guilty about No and Nit.  Oh, let me clarify.  Even though their kids are now older than 8, they still drag out the folding chair and plop in it at the end of the driveway while the kids play.  I've gotten looks and a few comments about how my kids are outside playing with their kids and I am not out there.  Let me also clarify that my kids are typically well behaved (especially while in the presence of other people) and they are not as interested in playing with No or Nit's kids anyway.  I don't think these moms are outside trying to bond with their offspring.  They are usually buried in a magazine or focused on their phone.  Ahhh, another bonus to having a brood our size is they rarely require entertaining.  They don't care if I am outside or not. 

I am blessed with a very good memory, so I remember my childhood.  Granted I lived in Iowa for a few years growing up, but we used to go outside to play and that was that.  We stayed outside for hours.  We were little.  When I was in kindergarten I used to take my doll stroller around the block for a walk alone.  No sidewalks.  No biggie.  We ran around to the neighbors houses and no one cared.  It was awesome.  So . . . I don't get constant supervision.  Let them play.  Let them get into a tussle with a brother or a neighbor.  Let them work it out

Of course this hands off approach to outside play has come back to bite a couple of times.  When Reggie was in kindergarten, he was outside playing.  He decided to ride his bike around the block but neglected to tell anyone.  This was a practice that was only allowed when they let me know they were going, and they were accompanied by an older brother.  Reggie didn't get far when he saw kids we know playing in a slip 'n slide in their front yard.  These kids lived in the neighborhood across the street from ours.  Crossing a street they weren't allowed to cross was involved.  It was no expressway, but there were a regular flow of cars.  Apparently he joined in the slip 'n slide fun while the mom kept asking him if I knew where he was.  He insisted that I was aware of his whereabouts.  She was nervous to go in the house and grab her phone and leave the kids in the water.  She asked him one time too many about my knowledge of this impromptu play date.   Reggie shouted back, "I told you she knows, so stop asking me!"  At home, I was gathering the gang to go to the orthodontist.  No one could locate Reg.  Laddie jumped on his bike and decided to check around the block.  Not 5 minutes later, he showed up with a very angry and very wet Reggie hanging out of his arms.  Uncool. 

Yesterday was Mini's 10th birthday.  Her cousin slept over the night before.  I ran to a step aerobics /kettle bell class at 8am.  Coach had to drive Laddie to the high school bus for his away game, and then he dropped Eddie off to caddy at the golf course.  It wasn't ideal that the youngest four (they call themselves the fabulous four and they refer to Laddie and Eddie as the terrible two) plus a visiting cousin be unsupervised, but it wouldn't be for long.  When the class ended, I jumped in the car and noticed that I had a text from Coach.  He decided to attend morning mass since it was lent.  Another unsupervised spell.  Only 10 minutes though.  What could happen in 10 minutes?  On my way home, I drove down the street that Reggie crossed to get wet and wild.  There is a pond that I pass about a half mile from our subdivision.  It was a beautiful sunny morning - finally.  There was a boy exploring at the pond's edge with a giant net.  I smiled.  Then I looked again.  That boy belonged to me.  Tetonka.  I honked.  At home Reggie was out hitting gold balls in the yard.  He knew Tetonka decided to head out to the pond.  Tetonka came home a few minutes later on his bike.  I explained to Tetonka that he was the oldest one home and no one had given him permission to visit the pond or leave the other kids.  He explained to me, "Yeah, but the rest of the little kids were told to stay here, and they did."  Cool.

That night for Mini's birthday my folks joined us for dinner, cake, and presents.  I told my dad that recently when I cut up a lemon for a recipe the kids wanted to try the lemon.  Can you say sour?  It reminded me of a story my grandpa told me once.  I shared it with them, but I wanted to see if my dad had better details.  He knew right away what I was referring to.  His dad, my grandpa, was born in 1903.  One afternoon he and his brother went to see a band play in a gazebo at the park.  They took out lemons and carefully cut them up in front of the performers.  Then they proceeded to suck on them right there in the front row.  Some of the musicians struggled to play and some stopped playing altogether because they couldn't help but pucker their lips at the sight of grandpa and his brother.  It was a successful stunt.

I explained to my clan that back in the day kids ran around in neighborhoods, through alleys, and into town in small packs without a parent holding their hand or supervising them at all.  They were shocked.  True we live in a different world, but if you can't even hang out in your own cul-de-sac without being monitored, maybe it is time to tell No and Nit to go suck a lemon. 

April 6, 2014


My goal tonight was to stretch an unimpressive stash of leftovers into a meal that would feed the whole family.  We were eating in shifts.  I had to unload the team's concession supplies from my minivan when I picked up Laddie from practice.  Then I had to race him to an appointment and Curly and Reggie were going to be dragged along.  I fed the two shortest family members at 4:30.  Early.  Eddie walked in just as we were heading out to grab Laddie.  My written instructions were in clear sight on the counter.  I delivered the spoken version quickly.  Twice.  Three spoonfuls of meat - warm them up on the plate.  Shredded cheese, lettuce, and crushed Doritos mixed with warm meat . . . taco salad.  Simple.  All the required food items were lined up in order on the counter.

When I picked up Laddie at 5:30 he grumbled that I failed to supply him with a meal.  Oops.  We wouldn't be home till after 7 pm.  I forgot to throw a plate of warmed up food in the car.  I don't do fast food.  Almost never.  (That's a story for a different day.  It isn't a healthy thing, but an added expense I can't bear).  Although he initially scoffed at the granola bar I offered, he did eventually eat it.  Laddies' mood improved when I pulled into a pizza place.  Slightly confused, he grabbed a $5 pizza to go, and woofed down most of it in the car.  Curly and Reggie were thrilled to inhale some of it while in the waiting room.  Three happy kids.  Delightful.

By the time I arrived home, Eddie, Mini, and Tetonka had already departed for music lessons.  Tonight my dad was shuttling them to and from my brother's house for Irish music lessons since it was one of Coach's late nights.  Before I removed my coat, I realized with horror that the 2 1/2 cups of taco salad meat was basically gone from the Tupperware container.  Eddie failed to follow my directions.  Again.  Three spoonfuls of meat translated into 2 1/2 cups in the world where Eddie lives in a constant state of hunger.  So much for stretching the leftovers.  The plates hadn't been cleared from the table - of course.  Mounds of meat lay soaked in a puddle of Western dressing with bits of Doritos and lettuce dotting the surrounding area of the plates.  I would have to recycle the remaining meat from Eddie and Mini's plates for Coach.  Tetonka's plate showed only a residue of dressing and a bit of stray lettuce.  Shock.

The Irish musicians sauntered in a moment later.  I explained the oversight (or should I say 'over-meat') to Eddie.  It all seemed so much clearer now.  'That's why I was so full,' he remarked.  He was quick to use my speedy departure and my auctioneer style instructions as a defense.  The handwritten step by step notes I left for him were glossed over.  Details.

Tetonka had to load the dishwasher.  I gave him instructions not to load the 'meaty' plates into the dishwasher.  To make it less confusing, I stacked them on top of the pizza box . . . on the stove . . . out of the way.  Tetonka was curious about the pizza.  Who could be so lucky?  Seriously, these kinds of treats are few and far between in our house.  I explained how the pizza ended up in our kitchen - so out of place!  There was only one piece left, and it was for Daddy.

I hustled my tagalongs up to the bath, and checked in the hall once to be sure I heard the clink of glasses.  The kitchen was being worked on.  Progress.

After I had Curly and Reggie in bed, I went back downstairs.  There was lots of meat in the sink.  Tetonka isn't allowed to use the garbage disposal.  He needs his digits.  I looked around the kitchen in bewilderment.  The plates with meat had been loaded.  Why?  Tetonka is not exactly known for his attention to detail.  Not much of an overzealous kitchen duty chap.  How could he have decided to clear the plates that I intentionally told him not to clean?  He was speechless.  He couldn't figure out how he could have done it either.

Then I realized the error of my ways.  I brought a pizza box into the house.  I stacked plates on this cardboard focal point and asked that the dishes not be touched.  Tetonka couldn't help himself.  He opened said Pandora's box.  In his hurry to peek into the container, he removed the plates from the top of the box.  He then absentmindedly loaded them into the sink.  Always best to complete a task and hope that missing food isn't noticed rather than taking a bite and running.  If a missing bite of pizza doesn't give you away, then running will.  That one piece of pizza had called to him and nothing else mattered.  I proved my case by opening the pizza box.  Tetonka looked on in horror.  He cringed.  There was the lone slice.  One bite was missing from  its cold rubbery tip. 

No, I did not dig the half eaten, once salvaged, scraped-from-dirty-plate-into-even-dirtier-sink meat back onto Coach's dinner plate.  Even if Tetonka doesn't, I have standards.